Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen And Heard (April 29, 2010)

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published April 29, 2010  | En Español

I owe a personal apology to three young people at Queen of Angels Parish in Thomson for not being able to visit the parish for their confirmation because of the weather system that settled into our area on Saturday afternoon. Some flooding in low-lying areas suggested that it would be wise for me to designate their pastor, Father Bill Williams, to celebrate their confirmation since the weather patterns that afternoon predicted that things would get much worse before they got any better on Saturday evening. While I have already written to them with my regrets, this last-minute change in my plans was another sign that none of us is ever completely in charge of our own lives and our plans are always subject to the power of God’s creation.

Earlier in the same week, I had spoken with a young man and his fiancé in London regarding their summer wedding plans, but the marriage ritual book that his mom had Fed-Exed to him in Europe was caught up in the delays that resulted from the volcano eruption in Iceland and the resultant airport interruptions that brought a lot of good travel and shipping intentions to an abrupt halt! Eventually the book will get to them and their planning will continue, but the wonders of overnight shipments were thwarted by the sediment of volcanic ash.

At the Cardinals Dinner last Friday, I heard more than a few tales of how people had managed to get back home recently from European trips in spite of the airline delays that were unavoidable during the past few weeks. Some of those return travel plans took them well afar from the ordinary transatlantic crossing patterns. None of us can ever be assured that we won’t have to make some accommodations in life—and often at the most unexpected times.

Weather patterns are only one form of interruptions that our lives must endure often without warning. As the Marist community in the Archdiocese of Atlanta commends Father Jim Hartnett to the Lord, I recall some of the wisdom that he shared with me as his illness slowly sapped his strength but not his good humor. He often told me that his illness gave him time to “ponder.” He chose the word that the Gospel ascribed to Mary when she was troubled by the greeting that Gabriel offered her at the Annunciation.

To ponder means to consider something within one’s heart—not out of doubt but with an intriguing acceptance of a mystery that lies beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Father Jim Hartnett has gone home to God after a long and generous life as a priest and servant minister to countless thousands of youngsters here in this local Church. As he pondered the meaning of his illness, he grew in his acceptance of God’s will at the closing moments of his life.

Jim often told me to “ponder” the things that I cannot explain and certainly cannot control. His was a wise spiritual guidance that I continue to cherish. Whether it’s the weather, or the economy, or the antics of our youngsters, all of us are frequently challenged to ponder those things that we cannot control and to serenely accept them as part of God’s plan for our lives. May Jim Hartnett, a true son of Mary, be in God’s presence where he will enjoy the fullness of God’s Love and Mercy forever! May he rest in peace.